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When people want anything online — information, products, services or entertainment — they type (or speak) keywords related to their inquiry into search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. It’s the search engine’s job to show the most relevant results relating to their search terms.
But with more than a billion websites online and virtually limitless search terms, how do search engines decide which websites to show for which keywords, and how do they rank those selected websites? And, more importantly, how can you ensure that your website shows up on the first search engine results page (SERP)?
A process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about understanding and capitalizing on what matters most to Google’s search algorithm, which makes the ranking decisions based on a set of pre-established criteria. Implementing those factors efficiently on your website to appear higher in search results.
In this article, we’ll discuss the most important SEO factors that companies must implement to achieve better ranking results.
RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence system, assesses how users interact with your website. If users quickly leave one of your web pages after clicking on it, it indicates that the content on your website may be irrelevant to the search term or is otherwise useless, outdated, and/or incorrect. If the users quickly leave the web page after it appears on search engine result, RankBrain regards this resulting user behavior negatively and will lower the rank of your web pages.
So, your goal should be providing a convenient user experience once they arrive on your web page. The content should be engaging, helpful, relevant, current. The web pages should load quickly and should be organized in a way that provides an intuitive user experience. The longer your users stay on your website, the better rank you are going to get. Additional user experience factors will be discussed throughout this article.
As we mentioned above, engaging, helpful, relevant, and updated content is a crucial part of smooth user experience. You can add tips, user guides, frequently asked questions, and other assets that help inform users make better buying decisions and feel empowered.
For example, if you sell cell phones, you can write articles on comparing mobile phones, discuss some little-known yet helpful phone features, share info on the latest technical components, deals and coupons on mobile accessories, etc. and integrate product page links throughout the content. Visitors likely will feel that you are not just trying to push the products/services and are genuinely helping them make smarter buying decisions.
In your articles, you should incorporate relevant keywords use H1-H2 tags for FAQs, break up large paragraphs of content into bullet point lists, and link to your website’s other relevant pages, such as “how to” guides and whitepapers. Google will view such relevant and well-organized content as valuable when deciding the page’s search rank. According to a study, long-form articles (such as those containing around 1800 words) rank better than short ones.
Use infographics, product images, podcasts, and videos. Google’s image search and video search features are widely used these days. In some areas, people’s preference is shifting from reading a 1,000-word article to watching a five-minute video! Cisco estimates that online video content will attract more than 80% of all consumer online traffic by 2021.
All of your web pages must have unique meta keywords, meta descriptions, page titles, and header tags (H1, H2, etc.). To determine which keywords to target, do thorough research ahead of time using platforms like SEMrush, Moz, Google Keyword Planner, etc. In fact, when you search any keyword on Google, by default, it shows the most relevant and most searched keywords relating to that search term. For example, let’s look at the screenshot below for an eyeliner search:
Now, imagine you are a makeup company that sells eyeliners. You can integrate these keywords into your headings, metatags, and URLs. Also, always use relevant keywords in image alt tags. Google has an image search option, too, which people use frequently, and your eye-catching imagery that contains those keywords will capture users’ attention. Keywords are frequently used for developing content marketing strategies as well. For example, in the above screenshot, you can see that people frequently search for eyeliner tips. If you write a blog post for “eyeliner tips” with relevant images and create a video that contains related keywords in the description, you can attract more traffic to your website.
Use Of Keywords in URLs
Always use URLs or permalinks that contain relevant keywords instead of a bunch of alphanumeric characters. It makes it easier for Google bots to crawl and recognize those web pages and determine their relevance. In fact, users also tend to click on such URLs, trusting that they will take them to the exact products/service pages they are searching for.
Take the following URLs for example:
Now, if you’re searching for men’s blue shirt in size XL, which link should you click on? Most likely, your response is “the second.” Exactly! If Google sees that more users are clicking on the link containing the keywords “men’s blue shirts” and “XL,” the search engine automatically ranks the page higher on its SERP.
Google uses a “Mobile-First indexing” approach to rank a website. This means that Google considers the mobile version of your website first (even before your desktop site) when making a ranking decision. So, if your website is not responsive or doesn’t offer the same (or better) user experience when browsing on a mobile device, it will severely affect your SEO.
Page speed is one of the crucial aspects of providing a great user experience. In a world of instant gratification via smartphones and eCommerce sites like Amazon, users don’t want to wait. If your website is slow to load, they will quickly leave it in search of another. That’s why Google punishes such slow web pages with a lower rank.
To improve site speed, remove unnecessary content, files, software images, blog posts, animated graphics, plugins, videos, etc. from your site. Compress and reduce the size of necessary images using image editors. (There are many such free image editors available online.)
Search engines use automated “bots” or “spiders” to crawl your individual site pages and “read” the content to determine its relevance and index it. This is why it’s essential to ensure your website is crawlable for Google’s bots so that they can dwell on your website, read the content, and understand what your site is all about.
A sitemap serves a similar purpose. A sitemap is useful for organizing a website, as well as showing how your website is structured and how its pages and URLs are interlinked. You can create sitemaps at XML-sitemaps.com. For a WordPress site, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to create sitemaps.
Since 2014, Google has favored encrypted website (those that have HTTPS in the URL) over non-encrypted websites and rewards secure sites with better search rankings. To encrypt a website, you need to install an SSL/TSL certificate on your web server, which will remove the “not secure” warning from the address bar and display HTTPS and a padlock icon in the web address bar. All of the data transmitted between users and your website remains safe and secure because it is communicated via an encrypted channel.
Backlinks, which are also known as incoming links, are those that point users to your site from external web pages. In the above example, if a makeup artist sharing eyeliner tips on her blog recommends your brand and includes a link that takes users to your website, this backlink is highly valuable for both marketing and SEO purposes. Google considers such backlinks valuable in its ranking decisions. However, not all backlinks are equal in value: Backlinks from higher authority websites are precious and hold more value, whereas backlinks from low-quality websites and spammy backlinks are harmful to your SEO. You can ask such websites to remove the backlink or disavow them. You can run an in-depth Backlink Audit report in SEMrush. It enables you to check out backlinks of your competitors, too!
You should also interlink relevant pages from your own website. Plus, link to relevant and highly authoritative websites in your content whenever applicable. You might think that such links to other sites might drive your users to another website, but it is not always a case. In fact, users often find content more helpful and reputable when it includes better references. Plus, it is an essential part of a smart search engine optimization strategy.
We agree that content matters a lot. But more content doesn’t mean always means better ranking — always try to think in terms of focusing on quality versus quantity when it comes to content. Google doesn’t want to rank any website that is stuffed with low quality, irrelevant content. So, if you have product pages, blog posts or even informative pages that don’t bring in any traffic and you have kept them just for the sake of keeping them, just go ahead and delete them. Since 2017, Google has announced that a few stronger pages are better than many weak pages. Proven.com saw an 88.3% traffic increase after removing 40,000 useless pages from its website.
Google’s algorithm keeps changing as per the constant technological upgradation. Always keep an eye on the latest trends and rigorously follow them. Your company’s social media presence, social media engagement, and domain age are also indirect SEO factors. Your SEO efforts help to increase your site’s organic traffic, and more traffic means more leads and more revenue.